Be it ever so humble, there's no place like.....wait. Are you huffing and puffing? DON'T DO THAT!
I knew I should have invented bricks to build my house with.
Not that this is a picture of a house. It's more of a hut. Or, a shelter, really. It's more like a bunch of sticks piled together. Not really much of a shelter if you think about it. I mean, how much weather would it keep out, anyway? I can almost guarantee it's not waterproof. And with that missing front, it won't even keep the bugs out.
I guess it might keep some of the rain off. And stop a little bit of the wind. But it really wouldn't have been all that warm, even with a fire burning in the pit.
In the end, I guess it's better than nothing.
And now, it's nothing.
Let me back up a bit. Tis is a story that's not exactly odd, so much as it is befuddling.
*Note* This is going to get historical on your ass, so put your 'Paying Attention' caps on.
Humans. We are in the genus Homo. (so, calling someone a homo isn't an insult, it's a taxonomical description.) Our species is called Sapiens. But it hasn't always been that way. Before there were Sapiens, there were Erectus. (this is science, keep the boner jokes to yourself)
Before Erectus, there was Habilis and Neaderthalensis. All were Homos, but only Sapiens can be called modern human. But this isn't a story about Sapiens. It's a tale of Erectus.
Homo Erectus was our ancestor. You would probably call him a cave man. Even though they weren't really cave dwellers. Sue, some of them lived in caves, but it's thought that most of them lived in shelters out in the open. The reason we think of them as cave men is because that's where most of their remains have been found.
Shelters made of wood out in the open don't really survive too well, while cave cave in on top of everything and preserves it.
There are exceptions, however. And one such exception was on a hill side in the south of France.
WHen Erectus and his tribe first laid eyes on their new home, it wasn't on the side of a hill. It was on a beach. The beach was on the coast of the Mediterranean. And the year was....well, there was no year. Because, Erectus didn't really keep time. At least, not in the way we do. They paid attention to seasons, not days and weeks.
The location must have seemed perfect to Erectus, because they built a semi-permanent shelter on the location. For several years, it was used as a summer residence. We can't say exactly how long it was occupied for, but we know it was used for several years, if not multiple generations.
The problem is, the site is 380,000 years old. And deciphering how long it was inhabited for is tough. But here's what we know:
The place was named Terra Amata. There was one structure we know of, and it was well built for the time. There were holes for posts that would hold up the walls. There were also large rocks arranged around the perimiter of the shelter to add structural support. For the time, it was a very nice hut. It was 40 feet long, and it housed a good number of people. The exact number? It's thought between 20 and 40 stayed there at any one time.
Inside the hut there were impressions preserved in the soil where animal skins were laid out. These would most likely have been used for sleeping. There was also a fire pit, which showed that Erectus had mastered domestic fire by then. There was also a rounded depression in the dirt near the fire where it's believed a large bowl sat. This bowl was most likely used for food preparation.
Remains of deer, turtles, shellfish and other animals were found showing a wide variety in their diet. Worked stones were found showing tools were made at the site as well.
Found inside as well were sticks of red clay. Red clay sticks have been found in several Erectus camp sites. Their exact use isn't known, but most likely they were used for decorating the body to help improve hunting, or for other cerimonial purposes. Or, it could have been primitive sun block. Who knows.
In the rear of the shelter, there was found a large collection of coprolites. I have discussed coprolites before, but for those that don't remember, coprolites are fossilized poop. Erectus built themselves a bathroom indoors. What they used as TP wasn't preserved.
Terra Amata was one of the most well preserved open air Erectus sites ever found when it was discovered in 1965. It had remained undisturbed since Erectus abandoned it for what ever reason oh so many eons ago.
Dr. Henry de Lumley arranged for permission to excavate the location. He found several layers of habitation while digging, showing the location had been used for several years, if not generations. And when he determined the age of the location, it turned out to be the oldest prepared site where early Erectus lived.
Dr. de Lumley worked tirelessly with his team to excavate the site. They worked up to 20 hours a day, seven days a week from January to July in 1966 digging up everything they could. For the last week of the dig, they worked twenty four hours a day.
Why would someone push the dig so hard? Because when the deadline for the dig was reached on July 5, de Lumley had to vacate the site so it could be bulldozed to build an apartment building and a museum on the spot.
It's mind boggling that such an important location, one that sat undisturbed for 380,000 years, should only have been afforded six meager months of study before it was literally wiped off the face of the Earth. This was the oldest man-made habitation site in Europe, and as such, was priceless as a historical site.
Destroyed for greed.
But then, so much of our past has been destroyed for greed. Or out of ignorance.
As I stated at the beginning, this isn't so much an oddity as it is a befuddlement. It amazes me that someone would destroy a site like Terra Amata. But I'm weird, so....HAPPY FRIDAY!